Chef Stellino: Spaghetti & Meatballs

Serves 6 to 8

For the meatballs:
2 cups stale bread, cubed
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 eggs
2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork
8 tablespoons Pompeian® Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil

For the meatball gravy:
3 cups tomato sauce
¾ cup beef stock
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

1 pound pasta—spaghetti, rigatoni, ziti or tortiglioni
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

To prepare the meatballs:

Place the cubed bread in a stainless-steel bowl and cover with the milk. Let sit for at least 20 minutes, pour off the milk that has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl, and squeeze the bread cubes to get rid of the extra milk. Break up the softened bread into small pieces; they should look like wet oatmeal.

Mix the pieces of bread with all the remaining ingredients except the olive oil, working until the ingredients are completely incorporated. Shape the mixture into oval meatballs, using ⅓ cup of the meat mixture for each ball.

In a large sauté pan set on high heat, heat the olive oil until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Brown the meatballs for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Don't crowd the meatballs in the pan when browning; you will need to brown them in several batches.

Remove the first batch of meatballs from the pan and drain on a paper towel or brown paper bags. Repeat with the remaining meatballs. Set aside.

To prepare the meatball gravy:

Combine the tomato sauce, beef stock, salt and pepper in a big pot, stirring well, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the meatballs to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.

While the gravy is simmering, add the pasta to boiling water and cook until just tender. Drain the pasta well and return it to the pot. Add half the gravy from the meatball pot and toss it with the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl or platter, and top with the meatballs and the remaining gravy. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, and serve.

Meatball Sandwiches

Yields 4 sandwiches

1 cup shredded provolone
1 cup grated Romano cheese
8 warm meatballs (see recipe above), cut in half
4 Italian rolls, split in half
2 cups warm meatball gravy (see recipe above)

Preheat the broiler.

Mix the provolone and Romano. To make each sandwich, place 2 meatball halves on each half of an Italian roll. Moisten each sandwich half with a tablespoon of tomato gravy.

Divide the cheese mixture among the 4 sandwiches.

Place the meatball sandwiches, open-faced, on a baking tray big enough to hold all 4. Cook under the broiler until the cheese begins to brown. Divide the remaining meatball gravy into 4 portions. Serve each sandwich with a side of the gravy for dipping, along with lots of paper towels—it will be messy!